Some midway thoughts from Stephanie Jayne about Project Noel de

My current role is as a lead music therapist on the skill
sharing project here in Gisenyi, Rwanda. I am not teaching
music therapy to my new colleagues, but rather the key principles
of how music can be used as a medium for nonverbal
communication. I’m encouraging teachers, carers, social
workers and psychologists to listen to their clients in a different
way to what they are perhaps used too. To notice every
movement, whether it be a twitch of the hand or shuffling of the
feet; to hear every sound, from the pace of breathing to the
slightest vocalisation; to observe every aspect of body language
and to respect as an example of communication; to be aware of the
atmosphere or mood within the room and to respond

We are half way through this six-week project which has so far
been daunting, encouraging, promising and inspiring.
Daunting because music is already used within the every day life
here at the centre where we are working. Teachers sing songs
to aid students’ learning process in school and out of school there
is a strong tradition and participation of gospel music within
local churches. Music is also integral to traditional African
culture, with songs being sung for every occasion. So it has
felt like a daunting prospect of wondering what we have and can
offer? Where we will fit in to this society? and even if we are
actually needed?

However our presence has only been met with the most caring,
supportive and positive attitudes. Staff have been eager to
participate in workshops, both practical and theoretical.
They actively engage in discussions and have been more than happy
to explore role-playing and any seemingly odd activity I have
conceived on the spot, from dancing around the room to shaker-egg
football. And so I feel encouraged. Encouraged that we
do have something to share, encouraged that there is a willingness
to participate and a desire to explore and expand on a different
way of thinking.

This week marked the first time for many of the staff to lead
part of a music session. Any newly qualified music therapist
will tell you what an intimidating prospect this can be, and that’s
after 2-3 years of study. Yes, I’ll reiterate that we are not
training music therapists but still, to freely sing and play to a
client who may be barely responsive or perhaps the complete
opposite, displaying signs of anger and rage, is a huge task.
However, the staff of UCC have taken our ideas and sprinted!
Music here, is so close to the surface it hasn’t taken much to
encourage expression using this medium. Staff are singing,
dancing, playing, conceiving activities and respecting clients’
responses. They are experimenting with different ways of
playing the instruments, different ways of encouraging physical
movement and different ways of producing sound. The staff
care for their clients, they recognise a need for exploring an
alternative method of communication and interaction. Feedback
from staff has been promising. And for me? I am

Steph x